Schiit Bifrost DAC

Schiit Bifrost DAC Review

No - it’s not a mis-spelling - the company really is called SCHIIT

The name was calculated and they play on it - but despite their apparent sense of humour, don’t go thinking they are in it for a joke - these guys are deadly serious about hi-fi!

They produce a very focussed line of high quality products, at a fair price, with some interesting design features - and they only sell direct (hence the fair price)

The Bifrost is their mid-line product, being surrounded by the Modi as their entry level DAC and the Gungnir, the top of the line model

I opted for the Bifrost model mainly because I had identified very specific requirements which the Bifrost matched completely, which were….
  • 24/192 on all inputs
  • USB, toslink and s/pdif inputs
  • Onboard Mains Power (none of these silly little external supplies)
  • Amazing sound (OK - we all want that, but how good could possibly it be?)

I also opted to forgo the “Balance Design” of the Gungnir in order to save on cost. Hmm, maybe I should have splurged, but then, there is chatter about a new completely “tricked out” model in the development stages Winking

The only problem with Schiit being a direct-sale outfit - there really is no possibility of a side-by-side audition. But apparently, you can opt to return the DAC within 15 days if it fails to impress at audition time - i.e. for a 5% restock fee + shipping
(please contact Schiit for full details).

I did a lot of reading and people seemed to be quite generous with their accolades, so I took the plunge and placed an order.

I opted for the Bifrost with the USB input ($100 extra) and the Uber analogue stage upgrade ($70 extra) for a grand total of $520

Since I’m in Canada I elected to pay around $60 for the mid level (expedited) postage + tracking and on arrival, another $70 Duty and $10 handling - Grand Total $660

I placed the order Friday afternoon - within an hour the unit had shipped! The following Tuesday, around Mid day I was signing for the parcel. - now that’s Service!

Once unpacked, I put the little sticky feet on and left the mains lead provided in the box where it belongs!

I found, by way of experimentation with my previous DAC that a good mains supply is paramount when delivering good performance. I had replaced it’s meagre Wal-Wart power supply with a DIY supply providing much more headroom than actually required.

With on-board power supplies the only thing you can hope to improve is the power cable and since I just happen to have a well broken-in Furutech
FP-314 Ag - a 15AWG α (Alpha) conductor power cable handy, I powered up the Bifrost. Yes, cables make a difference - please see Why Good Power Cords Make A Difference

I first connected the Bifrost to my iMac via a DH Labs toslink (optical) cable, which I have found to be completely trouble free and very good at data transfer - rated at over 150 Mbps. The interconnects I use are Stager Silver Solids - 1 meter in length. Interconnects matter also - see
Wires Explained (1)

I played through several of my favourite audition tracks and right out of the box the Bifrost had already exceeded my expectations.

Prior to ordering the Bifrost I had gone to local stores and auditioned several higher priced DACs, including:
  • Wadia 121 decoding computer
  • Mytek Stereo 192 DSD DAC
  • Chord QuteHD DAC

Now I’m not going to say the Bifrost is better than these three, since they are many times its cost, but it comes very close to two of them and to these ears, was better than the other one.

What I found was that the guys at Schiit are deadly serious about producing high quality audio products
  • The bass frequencies go very deep and are very well controlled - my favourite pipe-organ tracks now sound extremely realistic with those low notes that have the unmistakable rumble and the high notes are crystal clear and uncluttered and you can hear them breathing.
  • The high frequencies are extremely well behaved - strings seem so much smoother, you can hear the air crossing the mouthpiece on flutes. Reproduction of sibilance is superb.
  • Dynamic control across the board is extremely good and a vast improvement to my previous DAC
  • The fine details that puts you into the recording venue are there and this is really highlighted on orchestral tracks and live music
  • The stage is huge in width, very good in height and cavernous in depth - again pipe organ tracks project way beyond the back of the speakers - I was sitting in a Cathedral.

The musicality is another outstanding achievement by the guys at Schiit. The sound is much more analogue than digital and as the unit breaks in that attribute is just getting better. I have not yet found myself fatigued and I’ve put in several hours listening so far.

Streaming internet radio has also taken on a new quality and I can even listen to the classical and jazz stations for longer periods with the Bifrost in place.

What about High Def. Digital Audio you say?

The bulk of my collection is 16/44-48 with a few 24/96 tracks and a couple of 24/192, but the Bifrost handles HD tracks with amazing dexterity.

My previous DAC was an up sampling DAC, so everything got up-samlped to 192kHz - and it didn’t do a great job of that.

The Bifrost processes the sample rate it’s given, so whatever you throw at it, that is what gets converted - no up-sampling! The net result is there is no interpolation going on to fill in missing samples and that seems to result a “crisper” presentation. There seems to be more snap in the drums, more whispery textures in the vocals, but strangely, strings seems smoother and not brighter - go figure.

SIDEBAR: I use an iMac to stream music files, and the iMac has program code that “messes” with the digital file for up sampling and volume control, ultimately colouring the audio output . To avoid this I installed a program called Audirvana Plus - a program that bypasses the internal iMac sound processing code and passes the data at the sample rate recorded. A nice feature of Audirvana Plus is that you can elect to have it integrate with iTunes or operate as a stand alone player. I choose to integrate it with iTunes to allow for remote control using my “Droid” tablet via an app called Retune.

One last item to test - the USB and s/pdif inputs - yep - they work! and they sound no different from the toslink to these ears - so I left the DH Labs USB cable in place.

For the s/pdif input test, I connected my DVD player. To my surprise playing a CD track sounded the same as the same track streamed from the iMac.

I could go on about the dynamics of
“this track” and the delicate textures of “that track”, but then you would have to know those tracks intimately to understand my rantings.

I will go on record as saying this is an exceptional value for money - and I mean

It is very close, performance wise, to the other units I auditioned and to be quite honest, I think that if I was to hear them side by side and budget was no object, I’d still select a Schiit - maybe the Gungnir instead of the Bifrost, but based on the performance of the Bifrost with the Uber upgrade - I think it too would also be a very close call.

If you need balanced outputs then the Gungnir would be the model to go for. For the extra $300 - you actually get a completely balanced design with dual transformer power supply and analogue sections, This should elevate it’s performance to the “next level”.

How much better? - that’s the $64M question.

Oh - I almost forgot - this little puppy is also upgradable, so as newer circuitry gets developed you can upgrade - e.g. the Uber Analogue upgrade is an example of this feature - if you don’t have the funds for the Uber right away - you can upgrade later - same goes with the USB input circuitry.

A base model Bifrost starts at $350 - AMAZING!

So I now have a piece of Schiit on my hi-fi stand and my wife didn’t give me any (shit) because it was much less than my original selections Happy

To sum up - The Bifrost is a no-nonsense, no-frills, basic inputs, no remote, get off your backside and select the damn input yourself kinda DAC!

If you want frills - go somewhere else - but ya ain’t gonna get an audio experience as honest as this one unless you spend 3, 4, or 5 times the money!

Yes - it’s that damn good!

page6_blog_entry40-two-thumbs-up A highly recommended product!


Well, it's been over a year since receiving this surprising little DAC and it just keeps giving.

In that time I have upgraded the power cords and installed KLEI gZero6 interconnect cables

Then, just when you think you’ve squeezed just about every ounce of performance out of it - Schiit announces the USB Gen 2 upgrade.

The improvements were immediately noticeable, with improved image focus and spatial imaging, much improved detailing across the board, improved dynamics and better low-end control and detailing.

The bass reproduction is very controlled and very deep - pipe organ music bass notes carry a superb texture that my old dac fell far short of and some of the R&B music I have now sounds totally different due to that precise control.

It's performance is very articulate across the entire frequency range with very competent dynamics, particularly with drums, and brass has an edge where necessary, which was very refreshing to hear.

High frequencies also are very well controlled with a smoothness that I attribute to the dac being very adept at reconstructing a high frequency audio signal.

Cymbals linger much longer, triangles and chimes are brighter and sibilance displays a control and depth.

Lastly, the spatial image is cavernous on those recording with fastidious sound engineers. This aspect was perhaps the most surprising aspect of this $520 DAC.

I have several pipe organ tracks and merely by closing my eyes, there I am, right there in church or cathedral where it was recorded - completely enveloped in the performance - it's just downright eerie.

I also have some select jazz tracks, the best of which is La Habana Joban by Xiomara Laugart - a very spacious presentation with outstanding texture in the vocal reproduction.

Do I wish I'd purchased the Gungnir? - not any more - this little unit is superb

Is it as good as my analogue rig? At $520 how could it be? - well, it’s extremely close with this USB upgrade, especially if you ensure the cables are high quality!

How good should the cables be? - well lets just say the better the cable are (both power and interconnect) the better the performance - and it just kept improving as I upgraded.

Interconnects: 1 meter KLE Innovations gZero6 Interconnects

Power cable: my own DIY design + Sonar Quest silver plated copper mains connectors

Now you may be thinking that using cables that cost as much as the DAC would bring out a superb performance in any DAC in this price range - and you may be right.

But - what I enjoy most about the Schiit Bifrost is it neutrality, smoothness and it's precision, and from that perspective I find it to be one of the most "analogue sounding" DACs I have ever listened too - bar none!

I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue and at no time do I find myself wishing - "if only I had that track on vinyl"

Am I a digital convert? - getting there!

Because now I purchase those albums that are CD only and look forward to hearing them

Best DAC in the world? - I’m not buying another one
Best DAC under $1000 - except for the Gungnir, - and especially when treated to good cables!

Remember also that the $520 includes both the new USB Gen 2 upgrade and Uber analogue upgrade, the starting price is $350 and the upgrades mentioned above can always be purchased later.